October 31, 2019

As Californians Lose Cell Service During Blackouts, Harris Condemns Telecoms Companies for “Unacceptable” Lack of Engagement & Communication

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday announced she was sending a letter to top executives of AT&T California, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast/Xfinity, and Frontier Communications condemning them for a lack of engagement with the State over the course of Public Safety Power Shutoffs, during which millions of Californians have been left without power and, too often, without reliable cell phone service.

Although the major telecommunications companies have been reporting service outages and network impacts to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), they have not been doing so to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). This lack of engagement with Cal OES has unnecessarily endangered the health and safety of Californians impacted by this year’s wildfires and blackouts.

“Over the last two years, Californians have experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in the state’s history,” wrote Harris. “Now, because of corporate negligence, misplaced priorities, and severe weather conditions exacerbated by climate change, millions of Californians are facing unprecedented power outages that can last days at a time.”

Harris continued, “In emergency situations, it is absolutely essential that all Californians have access to reliable communications. That need is elevated when electric utilities independently decide to shut off power to prevent sparking a devastating wildfire. While companies like PG&E must be held responsible for years of neglected maintenance, it is incumbent on cell service providers to mitigate impacts to communications equipment during power shutoffs.”

The full letter is available here and below:

October 31, 2019

Rhonda Johnson                                                           Hans Vestberg

President                                                                      Chief Executive Officer

AT&T California                                                          Verizon

430 Bush Street                                                            One Verizon Way

San Francisco, CA 94108                                             

 

John Legere                                                                 Steve White

Chief Executive Officer                                    President West Division, Comcast

T-Mobile                                                                      Comcast/Xfnity

3195 Zinfandel Drive                                                    9401 E. Panorama Circle

Building G, Suite 2                                                       Centennial, CO 80112

Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

 

Daniel McCarthy

Chief Executive Officer

Frontier Communications

8224 Elk Grove Florin Road

Sacramento, CA 95829

 

Dear Ms. Johnson, Mr. Vestberg, Mr. Legere, Mr. White, and Mr. McCarthy:

It has come to my attention that your lack of engagement and communication with the State of California and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is endangering the health and safety of Californians. This is unacceptable.

Over the last two years, Californians have experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in the state’s history. Now, because of corporate negligence, misplaced priorities, and severe weather conditions exacerbated by climate change, millions of Californians are facing unprecedented power outages that can last days at a time.

In emergency situations, it is absolutely essential that all Californians have access to reliable communications. That need is elevated when electric utilities independently decide to shut off power to prevent sparking a devastating wildfire. While companies like PG&E must be held responsible for years of neglected maintenance, it is incumbent on cell service providers to mitigate impacts to communications equipment during power shutoffs. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identified how critical it is for communications companies to prepare for this in a letter sent to five major wireless providers on September 12, 2019.  

It is my understanding that you have been reporting service outages and network impacts to the FCC over the course of the recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs. However, that cooperation has not extended to Cal OES. As stated in the October 26, 2019 letter to you, from Cal OES:

“Any loss of communications capability will have a direct impact on the health and safety of Californians. Thus, it is imperative that you all collectively engage with Cal OES in a meaningful and good faith manner to manage the impacts of any disruption in communication capability.”

Any disruption to emergency communications is a public safety threat to my constituents and it is critical that you immediately respond to the letter sent by Cal OES.

Sincerely,

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